Transfer of county functions gains impetus ahead of 2024 deadline

IGRTC Chairperson Kithinji kiragu during a stakeholders retreat in Naivasha. [File, Standard]

The process to fully transfer all devolved functions to counties has gained momentum with a program launched by President William Ruto to ensure the same nearing completion.

The Intergovernmental Relations and Technical Committee (IGRTC)- the state agency in charge of the process- announced that it has concluded the budget rationalization and identification of county functions pending transfer by the national government.

IGRTC chairperson Kithinji Kiragu said it was now all systems go following the completion of the unbundling process and the planned launch of a report later this month.

The committee was mandated to undertake costing and budgeting for the devolved functions yet to be surrendered to counties by the national government, asses how staff would be impacted by the transfers and payroll costs, resources deployment, and outline a budget rationalization summary including the assets to be transferred.

Kiragu noted that they had identified 23 functional components that needed unbundling and clarification on their implementation by the counties.

“Our next move is to prepare omnibus legislation to anchor the transfers before presenting a report containing recommendations to the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council chaired by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua early next year for approval and directions on implementation,” he said.

He intimated that the actual transfer of functions would happen in June 2024, ending a 10-year push and pull between the national and county governments. 

Counties have protested the national government's decision to hold on to devolved functions and in the process denying them billions in resource allocation.  

The IGRTC chairperson further noted that they are currently identifying assets, policies and laws that need to be amended to ensure a seamless transfer of functions.

“Most of the transferred functions have not been implemented as envisaged by the Constitution whereas others have not been fully transferred. This is what IGRTC is working on. This exercise will assist the two levels of government to deliver effectively to the people. Neither level can do well without the other,” he said.

IGRTC Director of Programmes, Victor Odanga said that despite the functions having been gazetted, they were yet to be operationalized in counties.

He was concerned that ten years since the advent of devolution, transition issues still dogged the country.

“This process is to ensure that the issue of transition is finalized and resources allocated accordingly. Governments, however, also have to ensure that the already transferred functions are matched with adequate resources,” said Odanga.  

Notably, IGRTC established a multi-agency task team which- on a fact-finding mission- established that the transfer of functions was facing challenges such as conflicting roles, duplication and contradiction.

President Ruto had during a Council of Governors meeting in Mombasa last year directed the Ministry of Devolution to conclude the transfer of all devolved functions to counties.

The Head of State singled out the delay in transferring all devolved functions as a major impediment.

“We are committed to the complete transfer of all functions constitutionally earmarked for the counties. I therefore, want to direct the Ministry of Devolution to complete the process of unbundling all these functions and the National Treasury to avail the necessary funds to complete the exercise,” said Ruto in a statement read by Speaker Moses Wetang'ula.